“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” —Warren Buffett
Recently, I pulled into my local gas station. It was evening and there wasn’t much traffic inside or outside the store. In fact, I was the only one filling up.
That was, until another car came speeding around the corner and pulled up to the pump next to me. The engine of the sports car broke the quietness of the evening and was drowned out only by the squeal of his tires and eventually, the volume of the music pouring out his windows.
The driver quickly hopped out of his vehicle wearing a leather jacket and proceeded to fill his tank with premium gasoline.
It was quite a spectacular sight actually. A dark, still evening with no noise around us to speak of. Me, standing next to my white, 2005 Honda Accord. And him, right next to me, taking time to admire his brand new sports car.
We didn’t exchange any words. I don’t even recall him looking in my direction to acknowledge my existence. He was, I think, far too preoccupied with his vehicle.
I know nothing of this fellow or how he came to acquire his fancy new car. And I am passing no judgment on him. This is a story about me—not him.
Because in that moment, a surprising thought entered my head. I remember thinking (for better or worse), “You know, I could drive a car like that if I wanted. I could purchase a fancy new sports car, a leather jacket, even racing gloves if I wanted. But I choose not to.”
And it’s true. There are, I suppose, a few cars on the planet that I could not receive enough credit to acquire. But for the most part, there is nothing stopping me from driving an expensive, flashy sports car around town.
Except for maybe one thing.
The only thing stopping me from driving the same car I encountered at the gas station is I enjoy living within my means.
I like knowing I spend less than I make.
I mean, I could drive a more expensive car. I could buy a bigger house. I could take more lavish vacations or purchase more luxurious furniture. But I find a significant amount of pleasure knowing my expenses do not exceed my income.
Staying out of debt means I am not being hunted down by creditors. It means I am not carrying a financial burden from my past while also trying to provide for the present. It means I have freedom to make choices with my excess income. It means I can save if I want, give if I want, or spend if I want. Because I live within my means, I enjoy a significant level of freedom that others do not.
It allows me to sleep better, carry less stress, and live a more calm, relaxed life.
Our world works hard to convince us to outspend our means and then provides a thousand ways for us to do it—even delivering pre-approved cards of plastic directly to our front doors. And from the outside, a life built on credit may appear the life we desire—with its bright lights, bold colors, and the flashy impressions we are able to make.
But I’ll choose something different for my life. I’ll choose calm and peace and the knowledge that I have chosen responsibly. For there is a wonderful joy to be found in it.
I know there are any number of uncontrollable circumstances that may make this choice impossible for some—tragedy, medical emergencies, or unexpected career downsizing as examples. But for those who still have the choice, I don’t think you’ll ever regret spending less than you make.
Besides, I kinda like my Honda Accord.
Lori Triba says
I follow you on Facebook, and while I aspire to be a minimalist, I definitely am not one (at present!). Question: do you believe it’s better to rent a home, or to buy one? Are you against one or the other, or…? What is a minimalist’s perspective on this, please…
joshua becker says
I’m not pro either/or, nor am I against either/or. Lots of factors to consider.
Kodey WhiteWolf says
I agree. As of Oct (goal date) we’ll be fully out of debt. NOT going back (credit cards/ Xtra bills). Yes we “need” a new car ( now 21 yr old Honda Odyssey). Trying to save & will have small loan for that & that’s okay Once we’re done that’s it’s. Goal = Don’t have cash to buy ( only when needed) will just have to wait. All good
I would like to add to the benefits the greatest benefit to me: freedom in career and work decisions. I remember the day I felt the pressure, but realized I had a pressure valve. I was an old young-adult (perhaps too early to say middle-aged) and the executives at my employer decided to push a real increase in commitment to multiple projects that resulted in more demands on people’s time. Some team leaders instantly gave in to the pressure and started requiring longer hours and more days from their salaried employees. I remember the pressure to do the same – but my commitment to family, church and community service would suffer, not to mention similar impact on my teammates’ lives. Then I felt the pressure relieve as the thought came to me, “We have enough saved to live on for a handful of months, even if they fired me, I don’t want to work in that environment and I would have time to find another job.” So I did not give in. When the demands came in, I prioritized them and let other teams know when we would be able to deliver, and when leaders asked why such long delivery dates, I told them – and informed them we needed more people if they wanted things delivered sooner. Our team was a great group of people, and they not only did not fire me, but my team became a place other people wanted to work because we fought for that work-life balance. That freedom to make professional choices which aren’t desperate and out of fear was only enabled because I was in the financial position to “put my money where my mouth was.” If I had consumer debt and lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck, I don’t think I could make those kinds of professional decisions.
I love this! What a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing.
Fran Lee says
“That freedom to make professional choices which aren’t desperate or out of fear..” is the single reason I live well below my means. I can walk away at any time and know I’ll be just fine.
Wow yes, I 100% agree, THIS is where true freedom is for me too. The ability to make decisions not out of fear!!
So… first comment.. be careful of arrogance for not spending and living minimally or thinking ” I am better” which you probably are internally with your life. I get you are happy with your choices… lots of assumptions are being made in this article.. aka… that people who have “stuff” carry debt or have baggage. Some people are OK.
You are not. That is good to know.. when we make our realizations about us and the benefits we feel.. super… but realize there is no one size fits all. I left this article thinking… just because you admit to being judgmental. Ask questions of the person you are judging, get curious.. rather than “assume” you have the correct view for more than yourself. best.
I do not read that Joshua is making those assumptions at all. He specifically pointed out he was talking about himself and himself only – that he could not purchase that car (or bigger house, etc.) and so on without living beyond his means. He never suggests that is what this person did.
“I know nothing of this fellow or how he came to acquire his fancy new car. And I am passing no judgment on him. This is a story about me—not him.”
I was going to write that it appears you are the one making assumptions, but Joshua literally told you he was not, he was only talking about himself. When you point a finger at someone else, your 3 other fingers are pointing back at you… You ignored what Joshua wrote, and made assumptions anyway. Things to consider…
Saoirse Windsong Collins says
Do you never buy anything on credit, not even a home? I ask because I know most people couldn’t own a home without going into debt. I personally owe nobody. My car is a 1998 Volvo S70 that I paid cash for a couple of years ago. It had about 100,000 miles on it and my mechanic says it will go 300,000 more. I save about a quarter of my income each month. I would like to buy a house but without a loan that could take many years. So, again, are you suggesting we not go into debt for even a house?
Most people do need to use credit for their house, but buying one that fits your budget is key.
My husband and I bought a house 10 plus years ago and paid it off 2 years ago. Now we truly owe nothing to anyone!
Still haven’t gone on a big trip but we did up the amount going into retirement and are thinking about the future more because it looks brighter.
Tbh, when I shop I still look for bargains but if we want steak I but good steak. I still like to buy my clothes on clearance, but if I really like something and it fits well, I buy it!
Jim Moxon says
Renting is throwing money down the drain. Buying a house puts money to work. Interest rates are the lowest I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Buy within your means and the money you borrow allows you build equity in the property. With the current housing market there is a good chance property values will rise faster than the cost of the loan. I paid my home off in 15 years through the 90’s to early 2000’s refinancing three times for lower interest and shorter terms. Currently it is valued over three times the purchase price.
joshua becker says
I have a mortgage. This wasn’t about never having a mortgage or a business loan or a student loan, those can paid off within a person’s means. This was about living a lifestyle that you can’t afford in the long-run.
Marie-Claude Duquette says
I agree that this slow life style brings freedom and peace of mind. I’ve build my life on this and I enjoy realizing that I am not a slave of my job, that I can take time off when I need it. Because I have savings and no debt besides mortgage.